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Friday, December 28, 2012

Lament

The world seemed brighter back in '88!
Was I young and athletic? I suppose.
I'm over forty now -- a sorry state;
The blush and bloom have long since left the rose.
The muse, like clement weather, comes and goes;
But mostly I drink, eat, read, sleep, complain:
And what the future holds, nobody knows --
One thing's for sure: I won't be young again.

And what is left for me to celebrate?
The cerebellum shrinks, the belly grows.
(Try running windsprints when you're overweight,
When years of vigor hasten to a close.)
The heavy limbs that trudge through winter snows,
The graying hair that's soaked by summer rain,
The litany of ills and psychic woes --
One thing's for sure: I won't be young again.

The blunted wit that fails me in debate,
The memory recalling pangs and throes,
The mind conspires to humiliate
By what it blots out and by what it shows:
The weakening soul that seeks a sweet repose
Suffers from merciless recurring pain
Dealt by those thoughts which are its fiercest foes --
One thing's for sure: I won't be young again.

Virgin most venerable, Mystical Rose,
Through your most gracious prayers may I regain
Some strength, some hope; for time's great river flows --
One thing's for sure: I won't be young again.

*

original version 2008
revised 2012-13

Saturday, December 1, 2012

2 Haiku

Almost December --
crows shiver in the stubble;
snow stings us awake.

*

Are they worth more than
windblown dandelion seeds,
these frail words of mine?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Freestyle Ghazal


I shall play at poetry!  Wordy in the morning.
I shall brew the coffee at 3.30 in the morning!

I shall shower and get dressed, yea verily, forsooth
(Unless I want to be dirty in the morning)!

I shall banter with the lady neighbours over doughnuts;
I shall make them laugh! What, me flirty in the morning?

I shall contend with tendonopathy
And a slight backache, see? Hurty in the morning.

I shall tap out a sonata on the laptop keyboard:
Marvel at my proficiency! QWERTY in the morning!

Perhaps I shall repeat myself like old Miss Stein,
From here to infinity!  Gertie in the morning!

I shall impersonate a 19th-century poetess
Sipping (delicately) her tea in the morning.

It's chilly now, but the sun will make it warmer;
November foliage, ah! real "purty" in the morning.

MC Tommy Def, grand master of freestyle,
Are you anything but white and nerdy in the morning?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comedy

Yes, every poet needs a Beatrice,
An angel hailed with an iambic kiss,

A spectral love lost in the mists of time,
A muse saluted with nostalgic rhyme,

A saintly soul with sweet compassionate eyes
Whom lovestruck sonneteers must canonize,

An icon greeted with a swinging thurible
Of lyric incense and longing incurable.

But if by chance his verse she could peruse,
She'd cringe to read his praises, so profuse!

She'd think, "Such terrible clichés! Why can't he
Give it a rest? He's certainly no Dante!"

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hart Crane

Your verse endures
Who swooned in waves before your lethal leap;
Drunk on the cadences of your forebears,
You show us riches that we cannot keep.

Poet of Brooklyn Bridge,
Hymnographer of the metropolis,
Wrecked over the edge
Of reason's vessel, lured by liquid bliss --

We dare not emulate
Your forays into the divine grotesque,
And yet we ask
A share in your song, dark and intricate.

Accept, we pray, our halting praise of you,
Deep drinker of astonishment and woe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Morning News


Do I need TV to tell me the morning news?
Should I buy a paper?  Sell me the morning news.

Old Captain Forward and Governor Weathervane
Trade quips, one-liners.  Spare me the morning news.

Harvard professors remake society
To suit their whim.  Scary, the morning news.

Innocence leaps in front of a deadly train
And mourners leave bouquets.  The morning news

Discourages the most hope-filled among us.
CNN replays the morning news.

Romantic poets, dreaming of Arcady,
How can you sweet souls stand the morning news?

Drone strikes, gas prices, church and state, gang rape:
Some twisted devil has planned the morning news.

Celebrity marriages end.  Hurricanes threaten.
Dormant volcanoes cough the morning news.

Coffee and the ticking kitchen clock--
Preserve your peace.  Turn off the morning news.

Atheists believe in Original Sin
After the strife and fright of the morning news.

Stand-up comedians wade in a sea of cash:
Crassly, they make light of the morning news.

The front page of the Globe: bullets and bullshit.
Each paragraph's a threat.  The morning news

Is not a breakfast I find to my taste.
Please teach me to forget the morning news!

Monday, October 22, 2012

A Christmas Triptych: 1988

(1)

A song of smoke
      whirls from chimney
snowflakes alighting
      from darkened dome
      of bliss
onto cherishable
      rooftop

the turtle-dove
      seeks haven
      at the lyric
      hearth
wanderlust of anxious
      sparks
fiery surprises huddle
masked in red & green
spin yarn in corners
      of childhood reach

an angel whirls
      amid fairy-frail
      fractions of ice
which dance like a
      company of unstringed
      balloons
heedless of gray gravity

midnight comes
as the jolly candle flickers
warning & warming
the coming of anointed
      children
to every millennium
wise men bring stars
to face the desert chill

(2)

Precarious peace
lights vigilant lanterns
awaiting a rainbow's
       ribbon
in the clear holiday

a pleasant shock
enters the nerves
attired for lively
      celebration

mountaintop prophets
hold gloved hands in
strict silence waiting
for valley-bells
      to wake the
      bustling hills
where elves make their
      home
out of crystal suspense
& magic sand

a silver sound seeks
the entrance of diamond
      castles
the palaces of dream
where greed converts
      itself to giving
& anger into loving
& blood flows
      brotherly
      & sisterly through
veins into hope-pumping
       hearts

(3)

      Exuberant frost
limited only by edgeless
      sky

candle-bulbs & wreathèd
      trunks
fleeting carols sung to the
      wind in late salutation

cloud-apparel smoky
      breath wishes for
      new evening warmth
sugar-striped shivers
      white-beard lamppost

long walks through
      seasonable pine-groves
      to greet acquaintances
gathered by a generous
      fireplace
the music of gifts
& the jingle of chatter

sparrow mistletoe
loaves of fish & creels
      of Christmas bread
tinselled memories
handshake & embrace
achievement of December
a solstice of affection
& golden faith

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Golden Beak

I am reading George Herbert for breakfast
I am having chocolate pudding for lunch with a dollop of Barchester Towers
I am pondering the literary value of blueberry pancakes
I am shooting the breeze with old Doc Williams beside the white chickens
I am writing sonnets about riotous blossoms and the loves of Dylan
     Thomas
I am taking life two minutes at a time
Actually more like ninety seconds at a time
I am embracing friends across the telepathic distances
I am editing anthologies of my favorite knock-knock jokes
I am taking anaphora to its uttermost limitations
I am going to Gail Ann’s for a sausage and egg sandwich
I am walking to West Medford across the Mystic Valley Parkway
I am becoming a Christian because of Marianne Moore’s example
I am contemplating proverbs with Thomas Merton in the rusted trailer in
     Kentucky

I salute all my friends from my workspace in suburbia
I introduce myself to the pastor of the Unitarian church
I ride the trains in search of enlightenment and loose women
I commit myself to shaving at least seven times a year
I declaim “Kubla Khan” in my best Boston accent
I am sixteen again in Latin class translating Catullus
Odi et amo quare id faciam fortasse requiris
I am fourteen again and sprinting past the librairies of Québec
I am eleven and dreaming dreams of release and liberation
I am twenty-one and lamenting the loss of innocence
You may say that this isn’t a poem but a glorified shopping list
And I tell you it’s the best I can do on a Sunday afternoon
In chilly December when the clouds are great lethargic armies
Invading my scenic precinct that I love so bloody much

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Litany


We need poems for the saints and for the sinners.  We need poems that praise what is praiseworthy.  We need poems that praise what is lackluster, what is ordinary, what is all-too-fallibly human.

We need a poem for the sixty-something widow in the supermarket who is wondering if she has enough eggs.

We need a poem for the angst-ridden teenager with the pierced nose, the one who underlines her copy of Ariel.

We need a poem for the street tough in whose cold eyes the world is a punk-ass bitch.

We need a poem for the politicians, the ones with the photogenic families, the ones who send other folks' sons and daughters to war.

We need a poem for the businessman on his fourth vodka-and-tonic.

We need a poem for the bicyclist who likes going up steep hills.

We need a poem for the addict of cyberspace, lost in dreams of fleshly decadence.

We need a poem for the shy bisexual poet who fills his notebooks with imitations of Walt Whitman praising the love of boisterous cameradoes.

We need a poem for the prisoner who made the newspapers for all the wrong reasons.

We need a poem for the therapist who has grown too tired for compassion in her practice.

We need a poem for those nameless birds outside the tenement window which almost beautify the grim surroundings.

We need a poem for the middle-aged athlete whose career is long since over, a casualty of pizza, beer, bad knees.

We need a poem for the crying child.

We need a poem for those who love immoderately.

We need a poem for those who mourn, for those who revolt against the reading of the beatitude.

We need a poem for those whose pain-racked bodies are twisted and yet somehow beautiful beyond the bland blond glossy magazines.

We need a poem for the renegade monk who turns to bourbon and women and activism.

We need a poem for the protesters who are ardent, righteous, inflexibly convinced.

We need a poem for the Judases--disloyal, dejected, cowardly, despairing.

We need a poem for the bad thief who wants his suffering to end, who thinks first of himself, who mocks the God he feels is mocking him.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ghazal of Light

Vespers in winter.  A certain slant of light.
Cloistered brothers begin their chant of Light.

Van Gogh's sunflowers blaze from the canvas:
Ardent and large, they follow the bent of light.

Fingers of sun break through the settled clouds,
And all self-wounded souls, they pant for light.

Fireflies at night, jazzy constellations,
Brighten the northern woods with a stunt of light.

Enthroned in splendour, the soul's lost love
Shines in the memory, life-source, font of light.

An acolyte of Eastern mysteries,
He probes the skies, this hierophant of light.

Planets dance around coldly blazing stars,
Participants in the cosmic jaunt of light.

View the eclipse not with the naked eye,
But through a sheet pierced with a point of light.

The red low-wattage lightbulb Heather gave me
Fills my bedroom with a strange tint of light.

Decaf tea and a book of ghazals on a rainy day.
Retreat, O Thomas, to your haunt of light.

Monday, October 1, 2012

On the Radio


In '79, Donna Summer's "On the Radio"
Appears -- and reappears! -- on the radio.

At ten years old, one can be affected by
The happy tunes one hears on the radio.

At twenty, we're all trying to be cool --
We're wise beyond our years. Oh, the radio!

At thirty and beyond, we grow nostalgic:
Remember Tears for Fears on the radio?

It's now 2012. I listen to jazz
Or neo-soul, switching gears on the radio.

Away with Justin Bieber and Rihanna!
Enough of these young dears on the radio!

Can't we have a channel for Gregorian chant?
Let's hear monastic choirs on the radio!

Enthusiasts for punk rock might prefer
The Buzzcocks or the Queers on the radio.

Hip-hop aficionados blast those rhymes
And hurt their neighbors' ears with the radio.

The bloviating buffoons of talk shows
Make lucrative careers on the radio

Eviscerating prominent politicians,
And shouting the crudest jeers on the radio.

It's better, perhaps, to listen to NPR:
No ads for K-Mart or Sears on the radio.

Oh, for the days of Shakespeare on the air,
Of Gielgud and his peers on the radio!

I'd stop, put everything down, call up my friends:
"Hey, did you know King Lear's on the radio?"

In the Venice of canals and cardinals,
They put operatic gondoliers on the radio!

Dance to the new day's music! Sing your heart out.
Let's hear it, Tommy: Three cheers for the radio!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Before Dawn

Heaven is dark with splendor before dawn;
Hope whispers--subtle, tender--before dawn.

My sweet one sleeps a thousand miles away:
Unfading flowers I'll send her before dawn!

Armies of love clash by the turbulent sea:
Which side shall surrender before dawn?

Sleeplessly seeking rhymes, the feverish poet
Goes on a rotgut bender before dawn.

The fires in my antiquated hearth
Burn to a cold, gray cinder before dawn.

Bravo, progressive mystic! Will you decide
The Holy Spirit's gender before dawn?

O troubled women of the Boston streets,
Commit no reckless blunder before dawn.

Relentless rains drench this northern suburb,
Forsooth!  It just might thunder before dawn.

I plagiarize the sixteenth century,
More borrower than lender before dawn.

Yesterday's warmth is a thing of the distant past:
It will be freezing (or under) before dawn.

Diana, goddess of priceless silver light--
The lunatic will find her before dawn.

Cistercian sages, eloquent and holy,
Your hallowed words I ponder before dawn.

Thomas, you're singing a wonderful dithyramb.
Don't stop, dear sir--extend her until dawn!


Summer ghazal


We need the AC and the fan during the summer.
I'm not a happy man during the summer.

Coffee must be iced; wine must be chilled:
I drink cold beer if I can during the summer.

I do not go to the beach, but estivate;
I'm not one who gets tan during the summer.

Hot temperatures are not my prime delight:
It's "out of the frying pan" during the summer!

Poets and prosodists go bonkers from the heat!
They quite forget to scan during the summer.

Drivers roll down their windows, blare their music;
I'd like to have a hip-hop ban during the summer.

Let's have some '70s music instead, shall we?
Play the Eagles and Steely Dan during the summer!

One good thing.  It stays light late.  No worries
About a brief sun-span during the summer.

Tourists flock to Logan International Airport;
There's traffic in the Callahan during the summer.

Nature buffs go to rivers, to mountains, to lakes;
They pack stuff in their van during the summer.

It's cooler the farther north you go, I hear.
Let's visit Saskatchewan during the summer!

Maybe Alaska would be a neat place to see:
Escape from heat I plan during the summer.

Autumn brings harvest and fall foliage:
God completes what He began during the summer.

I remember the humid 10K Franconia Scramble
And all those races I ran during the summer.

O Thomas Edward, by the first of August,
You'll know how to withstand the long hot summer.

Monday, May 14, 2012

And flowers

April brings baseball, "Sweet Caroline," and flowers.
May gets drunk on the purple wine of flowers.

Springtime opens its parcel of blossoms and gifts:
Praise God for breezes, warmth divine, and flowers!

Thoroughfares are blithe with daffodils!
Violets, pansies, roses combine, O flowers!

We practice nepsis, eager expectation --
Waiting for rain and the first sweet sign of flowers.

"Keep off the grass," admonishes a placard;
Are there dogs and cats who like to dine on flowers?

In Fr McNichols' Madonna-and-Child icon,
Christ holds the modest columbine, blue flowers.

A ladybug, that spotted token of luck,
Creeps meekly among the green spines of flowers.

Oscar Wilde, esthete of the white lily,
Often sought the anodyne of flowers.

When can we forsake our occupations,
Roll in the lush green clover, recline in flowers?

The trellis outside this suburban demesne
Is graced with a long bright trailing vine of flowers.

Georgia O'Keeffe wrought massive canvases:
With labial petals, she'd design her flowers.

Romantic adolescents dreaming dreams:
Amid the city's rust, you pine for flowers.

Haters will hate, and lovers will love, true, true:
Bury this happy androgyne in flowers.

The sacristan adorns the orient chapel
With incense, icons Byzantine, and flowers.

Tom, with your sparse wit and your big old belly,
Surprise your buxom valentine with flowers!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

After midnight

It's summer, but I wake up with a chill.
Arlington's weather has changed after midnight.

Star-crossed sweethearts sneak past scowling kin:
A desperate tryst arranged after midnight.

Forgetfulness, brute lust, the pride of life:
Clear and present dangers after midnight.

Pay no attention to parental admonitions:
Speak to kindly strangers after midnight.

Bethlehem is the House of Bread. A babe
Rests in the hay of the manger after midnight.

Pagan damsels, sky-clad at the solstice,
Dance at bone-cold Stonehenge after midnight.

Silence, truly benedight! Upon thee
A loutish knave impinges after midnight.

The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Can get slightly unhinged after midnight.

Sage, theorist, uncover a new conundrum
Whereby great minds are challenged after midnight.

Though your soul bear a dark and scarlet blotch,
Your sins shall be expunged after midnight.

Hans Himmel, golden-throated Salzburg tenor,
Explores his eight-octave range after midnight.

Johnny Heaven, '50s crooner, teen idol,
Wears a black hat like Dillinger's after midnight.

Dalí's tableaux of Gala, of clocks, of Christ:
Ils deviennent plus étranges après minuit.

O timorous Thomas, trembling in the dark!
Pray to your guardian angel after midnight.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ode 2.0

trending hashtags
viral tweets
cybergasbags
facebook treats

blogger tumblr
youtube clips
my smartphone can
read my lips

yahoo google
search with bing
grab the latest
techno-thing

ipod android
mp3
kindle laptop
wifi free

social network
avatar
chat with "friends" both
near and far

combox bicker
keyboard rage
download quicker
scroll the page

hd videos
hardcore porn
make a sextape
star is born

huffington washington
get your fix
daily dishes
politics

dot-com dot-org
forward slash
e-mail g-mail
network crash?

instant message
OMG!
check your settings
privacy

who's online now
let me look --
no one? think i'll
read a book

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Woman from College

Amherst is chilly; we shiver and sneeze:
Behold, a poet on his knees!

It's 1990. I am twenty-one.
I drink large draughts of wine to the lees.

You like Public Enemy, I like the Cocteau Twins.
I cherish your voice, a soothing breeze.

You are springtime in December, gentle warmth
Giving life to the shyest leaves of trees.

You are my solace in the midst of woe;
You are healing for all my injuries.

I love you in your fierce disconsolacy,
In the righteous wrath that I cannot appease.

Tom o' Bedlam worships you secretly--
With your jet-black hair and torn dungarees.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winter Rhyme


I like to party in the blistering snow
When temperatures are roughly ten below
And eaves are fanged with drastic icicles
And streets are free of summer's bicycles
And lips exhale an icy dragon-smoke
And words freeze hard as soon as they've been spoke
And flowers are crisped to flakes by the searing chill
And arctic draughts creep past the windowsill

I like to party beneath glacial lights
That dot the cold black sky these winter nights
As darkest air is blurred with magic stars
That frolic to the tune of blind guitars
And slam-dance in a polar vertigo
I like to party in the blistering snow

Out for My Walk

Arlington, Massachusetts, 5.15 am, first morning of summer --- air cool and dewy: sprinklers, sparrows, squirrels; a wide-awake rabbit o...